Monday, December 19, 2016
[Mendocino County] It’s All Good: By hand, some poems; wide margins; Grand Jury wins one for us Peeps...
Blog note: this article reports on the California Grand Jurors’ Association awarding the 2016 Robert Geiss Excellence in Reporting Award to the 2014-15 Mendocino County Grand Jury.
Still thinking >> about Emily Dickinson as both a non-print and a post-print poet (Itsall, 15 Dec.). My notions start from Dan Chiasson’s 5 December essay in The New Yorker.--Dickinson is a non-print poet because she herself never saw her poetry through the complete, think-write-edit-be-edited-copyread print publication process. Her friends more and less skillfully did that work, mostly after her death, when she could no longer complain. Like most other writers, she made herself content with literary obscurity, and published to a small circle of friends in handwriting described as “fossil bird-tracks.” Unlike most other writers, she was a genius and possibly has bent the arc of American poetry toward what Chiasson describes as post-print poetry. Thanks to digital technology, we get the latest step toward the plenitude of some of Dickinson’s poems: Her hand-written words, her decisions & indecisions, her doodles and marginalia—all of which combine to create her sublime individuality, unconstrained by print convention.--The website Chiasson refers to is www.edickinson.org. Not all her poems are yet posted in ms. form (or exist therein), but when you find one you know, it is revelation to see how she self-published it, by hand. Happy hunting!
And yet >> . . . there’s always an ‘and-yet’ in such speculations as these . . . I remember Mike Riedell’s beautiful poem “Excess,“ which graced Itsall on 29 November. I called it “‘Asian-small,’ meaning that the few words on Mike’s pages gather meaning from their wide and silent margins.” I’m thinking about print exactly & traditionally placed on the page, with the placement complementing the poise of a completed statement.--Dickinson, by contrast & frequently, makes a statement INcomplete [STET] by means of one of her famous dashes instead of by the conventional period . . . As in “And finished Knowing - then - ” (280); “Dare not venture - now -“ (698); “Through Haze of Burial - “ (972).--Her dashes are famous because (handwritten) they are of different lengths & rarely exactly horizontal, and they are what she wrote. They mean. What they mean is between you & Dickinson. Take a look at them online, or if you’re a computer dunce like me, in R.W. Franklin’s The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson: a Facsimile Edition, probably available by interlibrary loan.
Writing “interlibrary” >> reminds me that our Mendocino County Civil Grand Jury, resiliently led in 2013-14-15 by Finley Williams, twice investigated & reported accurately and negatively on the County’s management of Library funding. First report met with perfunctory County denial of everything our GJ uncovered. Second report led—after much BoS grutching—to County’s agreement to repay some costs inappropriately charged to the Library’s account, and to seek a (State) legislative ruling on a somewhat fanciful County reading of law about what funds pay our District Librarian.--For its persistence and success, our Grand Jury won this year’s annual Robert Geiss Excellence in Reporting Award for “a grand jury report that is of high quality, has a positive impact on the community and increases awareness of the California grand jury system.”
Also involved: >> Your Library Advisory Board, chaired first by Valerie Frey & then by Marc Komer, which took the GJ’s documented findings and kept keeping them public. This column also helped keep matters simmering and annoyed a power who still is.--Informed citizens make a difference.
December 16, 2016
Ukiah Daily Journal
By Jonathan Middlebrook